I reckon that if I ask six people to define what hosted desktop is and how it’s organised, I’ll get six different answers because it means different things to different people!
I know this to be true because I’ve been having lots of these conversations recently, as we’ve been working with some new clients who came to us for help after suddenly finding themselves locked out of their IT systems and unable to access their data.
A hosted desktop is a virtual machine that hosts the operating system, applications, data and other system configurations of a physical desktop remotely from a server through the internet providing similar functions of a physical desktop.
What all these organisations had in common is that they were all using a hosted desktop service to operate their IT systems and equipment. Which is absolutely fine in theory. Hosted desktop is the future and can deliver huge benefits for SMEs, reducing investment and running costs and providing access to the latest agile business tools to boost productivity and enable flexible working anytime from anywhere.
The trouble is there are good hosted desktop solutions – and bad ones. A good one provides fast and secure access to your systems and data, on any device from anywhere in the world. A bad one is a ticking time bomb, and it’s only a matter of time before it fails, taking the hosting company down – and its customers with it.
The reason is because they are usually badly designed, insecure and often rely on cheap, old or outdated infrastructure and software. Rather than accessing the very best resources that the cloud has to offer, your entire company could be hosted in a server down the road, in demand by numerous other businesses, where you have to share resources that are prone to malfunction and vulnerable to attack.
But here’s the $64,000 question – when you’re trying to decide, how can you tell a good one from a bad one? The answer, as always, is to ask the right questions and, most importantly, if the service you’re being offered sounds cheap, be very, very careful!
Think of it this way, if you saw your dream house, you’d still have a full survey carried out wouldn’t you – to check that the boiler was sound, and the roof didn’t leak?
Making a fundamental decision on the future of your IT operating model requires the same caution. Before you commit to hosted desktop, when interviewing a potential supplier, make sure you get detailed, clear answers to these questions:
- Where and how will my data be stored?
- How much resource and capacity will we have, and will we always have access to 100% of that resource without sharing with other companies? Will we always be able to access our data, systems and emails? How do you meet that promise?
- If your entire system goes down will we still have access to our files and emails?
- Will we always be able to run the latest versions of Windows and Microsoft office whenever we need or want to?
- Please name and detail with a diagram the background technologies and infrastructure which your services use?
- Can you provide evidence which shows that you do not have any single point of failure in the delivery of all services to us?
- What security, business continuity, disaster recovery and risk management provisions are in place?
- Which subcontractors or suppliers will you be using to provide our service?
- What happens if we no longer wish to use your service?
Always describe your business requirements and not your tech requirements and speak to the supplier’s technical and support staff as well as sales representatives. And remember that hosted desktop is only one of a range of options at your disposal – and it may be a mistake to put all your eggs in one basket. Procuring separate (though integrated) services for each business function ensures that if one fails, the rest can usually carry on working.
What’s important is to select the solution that’s right for your business. If you’d like to discuss hosted desktop or your IT requirements in general, leave us a message here and we will get back to you or email us on email@example.com or speak to our friendly team on 03300 886116 for an informal and confidential chat.
Managing Director, The PC Support Group